What I Learned from Starting a New Job in the Middle of the Pandemic

For me, starting a new job has always reminded me of how I felt as a child, on the first day of school. There is the anticipation of a new adventure, the thrill of meeting new people, the little voice in my head that alternates between excitement and trepidation.

Then there is starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic. That is what has happened to me – having joined Zebra Technologies in January of this year. Of course, it has been strange. But with vaccine rolling out and positivity rates declining, I’m thinking about what the experience has taught me about myself, why I value work so much, and what I will carry forward when we return to ‘normal’.

1. Think. And make time for it.

Pre-pandemic I traveled a lot. In my last position, it was international travel. In those days, time on flights was really the only time I had to think and imagine. There was no time in the course of the business day to be still and put my brain to work on something bigger than the most current report or presentation or problem. Not having to travel has added time back to my schedule – and given me the breathing room to spend time asking what-if and then teasing out the questions – and answers. Definitely, something to keep sacred.

2. No technology will ever replace the in-person meeting.

I compare my year of team calls to the difference between visiting the Grand Canyon and seeing a video of the Grand Canyon. You just have to be there. When it comes to building a team, getting everyone to commit to a shared goal, and really getting to know people – their strengths, weaknesses, sense of humor, etc. in person is the only way to go. Post-pandemic, all hands on deck in person will be a priority for my team.

3. It only feels like we’ve been standing still for more than a year.

It will be up to historians to document what the legacy of the pandemic will be. That said, I am certain that when things truly open up, and we are back in our offices, meeting customers and colleagues in person things will not simply go back to the way things worked in 2019. The political, cultural, societal, and economic upheaval that has taken place will have left a mark and will have long-term implications on how we work, what work looks like, and why we work. And once again, like that child on the first day of school, I am filled with excitement about the possibilities.